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When a tonsillectomy can give you a better quality of life

This simple medical procedure treats recurrent tonsil inflammation as well as breathing, swallowing and sleep disorders

A tonsillectomy is generally done as an outpatient treatment or, if you prefer, with a one-night stay in hospital. PHOTO: GETTY

Admit it: you hardly notice or even think about your tonsils.

After all, these two little round lumps of tissue are tucked away at the back of your throat. But they are far from being nondescript or insignificant; they play a key role in keeping your immune system healthy before the age of one. Beyond that, they have no function and most will disappear by the age of 10.

Tonsils are organs containing lymphoid tissue. They actually form part of your body's immune system and are your first line of defence for infants. How so? They keep out bacteria and viruses when they enter your mouth or nose. Tonsils may be small but they are powerhouses of immune cells that produce antibodies which help to kill germs before they spread to the rest of your body.

Dr Dennis Chua, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) surgeon from Mount Elizabeth Hospital, says there are different types of tonsils. "The ones that are visible and that you see at the back of your throat are the palatine tonsils. A second type, the adenoids are located high up in your throat and behind your nose, and can only be seen with a nasoendoscopy. Then there is the lingual tonsil at the base of your tongue," he explains.

It is the palatine tonsils that become inflamed most easily. When this happens, you will suddenly realise they exist because they swell up and redden, causing a sore throat and even a fever. You may also see white spots or a yellow coating on them. The medical term for this is tonsillitis.

On the treatment methods, Dr Chua shares, "Generally, milder cases of acute tonsillitis respond well to a course of oral antibiotics and adequate rest. However, when chronic tonsillitis occurs more than four times in a year, consult a medical specialist and have a throat swab done for streptococcal bacteria. Your doctor may recommend a tonsillectomy, which refers to the surgical removal of the palatine tonsils."

A tonsillectomy doesn't only treat constant infection and inflammation. It is sometimes used to treat breathing and swallowing difficulties, sleep disorders like sleep apnea and other health problems caused by enlarged tonsils. Bigger than usual tonsils, which you may naturally have or may be brought about by recurrent infections, are also more prone to trapping dead cells, saliva and food debris which turn into tonsil stones over time and result in bad breath.

In rarer instances, a tonsillectomy is also done to remove cancerous tissue in the tonsils or to target bleeding tonsils caused by tonsillitis.

As uncomplicated as saying ahhh

Dr Chua says a tonsillectomy is generally done as an outpatient treatment or, if you prefer, with a one-night stay in hospital. Performed under general anaesthesia, it can be done by surgical removal with a scalpel. Your doctor may also opt for the cauterisation method, which burns away the tonsil tissues, or the ultrasonic vibration method, which uses soundwaves.

At hospitals under the Parkway Pantai private healthcare provider group, you have the option of getting a tonsillectomy done under your preferred specialist. The bonus? You can secure an appointment within 48 hours, meaning both the diagnosis and treatment can be over in a short time.

Tonsillectomy is covered under the Price Guarantee Procedures (PGP) programme which is available at the Parkway Pantai hospitals. It is the first medical group here to offer such fixed price packages.
If you have ever been warded in a hospital, you will know the feeling of not knowing how much your final bill can amount to. The worry is real especially if you aren't fully covered by insurance or have to self-pay a certain portion of the bill.

The PGP programme uses artificial intelligence (AI) to give patients more price transparency and bill certainty. Surgical procedures eligible for the PGP include the removal of gall bladder, breast lumps, ovarian cysts, piles, thyroid and tonsils.

Under this programme, patients get a preview of their medical bill which will match the final one upon discharge. Even if a slightly prolonged stay in the hospital is required because of complications due to the surgery, the final bill remains fixed. This gets the financial concerns out of the way and helps patients focus on recuperating.

  • Why you should consider a tonsillectomy

    The benefits of having one done include a lower risk of throat infections which then results in fewer medical visits, less use of antibiotics and an improved quality of life.

The PGP is offered at Parkway Pantai's four hospitals: Gleneagles Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Parkway East Hospital. All self-paying and insured patients are eligible for the programme which is available from doctors who participate in it.

For more information, please call 6812-3789 or visit the hospital websites: Gleneagles Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Hospital, Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital and Parkway East Hospital.

This article is for informational purposes only. Please refer to the specific procedures' financial counselling forms for detailed programme inclusions and exclusions. Prospective patients should always seek independent medical advice.

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